Grab your passport and pack your bags – these are the 10 best cities in the world for you to visit. But before you set off, remember that tourism can be a double-edged sword. It can bring tremendous economic benefits but it can also trigger resentment among local residents.
Top of the list of best cities to go to is the Danish capital, Copenhagen, which regularly wins plaudits for being a great place to visit, a great place to live, and the best city for cyclists.
Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Africa are all represented in the list, which was put together by Lonely Planet. But all 10 cities are to be found in the Northern Hemisphere. Popular tourist destinations south of the equator, such as South Africa and Australia, failed to rank at all.
The total contribution of travel and tourism to global GDP was $7.61 trillion (10.2% of GDP) in 2016, and is forecast to grow to $11.51 trillion (11.4% of GDP) by 2027. By then, it’s expected an estimated 138,086,000 people will work in the sector, representing 4% of global employment.
But with the growing popularity of lists recommending holiday locations, and increasing numbers of accolades for tourist-friendly destinations, there have been some unintended negative consequences.
In 1990 1.7 million tourists visited the Spanish city of Barcelona. Last year the number had grown to 32 million. The city’s resident population is just 1.7 million, with a further three million in its surrounding suburban towns.
That means there are almost 20 tourists for every permanent resident in the city.
Increased development to meet the needs of growing numbers of tourists has been blamed for driving up rents in some parts of the city, and making daily life for local residents less and less viable.
Albert Recio, from the Barcelona Federation of Residents Associations, told the Guardian newspaper: “People who live near the popular tourist spot of Park Güell can’t get on the bus because it’s full of tourists. And many traditional businesses that have existed for over 100 years have been driven out.”
Resentment towards visitors on vacation has led to a series of protests and a spate of graffiti expressing sentiments, such as “tourists go home”.
Other major European tourist hotspots such as Lisbon and Venice are witnessing similar backlashes against what are felt to be unsustainably high levels of visitors. The perception that the contribution to the local economy and society made by tourists is of limited value is referred to by many in Venice as mordi e fuggi – hit and run – tourism.
In the English county of Cornwall, holidaymakers were blamed for extreme traffic congestion which blocked the roads around a small number of the area’s famous coastal destinations in summer 2018. While others remained relatively empty, Porthcurno beach and Kynance Cove became victims of their own success. Following promotional campaigns to attract visitors, tourists flocked to the two destinations soon overwhelming car parking facilities. Some resorted to leaving their cars on the sides of narrow rural roads.
A spokesperson from the UK’s South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust told the BBC: “This summer we have struggled to reach patients on various occasions due to vehicles being parked inappropriately … especially in tourist resorts and areas where the roads are more limited.”